As Head of Paid Media, John Barham has several areas of digital marketing under his remit, from paid search, to paid social, to mobile and their current focus, CRO. “One thing that a lot of people do is attempt CRO with quite a light touch, or try to do it in-house, but we see it as a bigger part of the wider digital mix, it really should be seen as a channel in its own right.” Says Barham. With the travel industry endeavouring to become more and more customer-centric, personalisation is a device that marketers simply shouldn’t be doing without. “We have to make sure it lines up – if you think of marketers buying their media, like programmatic, in a very advanced way, but when people hit their site, they all get treated the same. There’s an obvious gap which we need to address, and in travel, there’s such a variety in how people are browsing and what they’re looking for, which makes it really important.”
Ahead of his appearance at the Figaro Digital Travel & Leisure Conference, Barham shared his thoughts on the way paid media and its influence is impacting the travel industry. He believes that there must be more integration between the different channels in order to give the best chance of conversion. “You build a great site, with all your content, your imagery, but that’s not job done by any means. Most people don’t then go the extra step. Whoever’s responsible for the website, it’s often the case that they’re not responsible for the rest of the marketing as well. Whether it’s managed in-house or via an agency, it helps to join up those areas.” By consolidating your brand’s marketing efforts, you can be assured that the goals are aligned and have the best possible chances of success, whether that’s driving traffic to site, increasing reach or driving content engagement.
2017, however, may bring some testing times for the travel industry. “In times of financial uncertainty, the first thing to be dropped by consumers is always travel.” Says Barham. The family holidays abroad, the weekend breaks in Europe, these are all significant spends which consumers are unwilling to make in times of economic tension. “Within that context, it’s a case of making sure that travel companies are geared up to adapt to what’s probably going to be quite a tumultuous year. If they’re not aligning all aspects of their marketing operation, they will be left behind.” The greater their digital strategy is synchronised across the marketing mix, the more travel brands will be buffered against a drop in leads. “[Marketers] don’t want to corner themselves by having only one or two routes for acquiring users.” Continues Barham. “If their established user base dwindles, they need to have other avenues for monetisation, be it upping other channels, or creating more value out of those users that are still purchasing within the market.”
Effective And Efficient
As digital transformation continues to run high on the list of priorities for travel brands, it is vital that brands remain agile in their offering so that they can ride out whatever waves the market might experience. “If [marketers are] using only a couple of media channels, and relying heavily on SEO for example, one update by Google could be dangerous for their business. There are a lot of unknowns, and it will take a leap of faith for marketers to test how agile they can be.” However, during these risky times, it’s good to know that there are still tools which are providing great value. “In paid social, the best tool is Facebook, and it will continue to be for a long time, because it has got the most advanced targeting. The other platforms are somewhat behind.” Says Barham. “We’re also seeing a rise in clients using Instagram for travel, partly because it sits within Facebook, so they get to share that targeting, but also because it lends itself to that aspirational, image-heavy content which is so popular for consumption in travel media.”
The vital takeaway, Barham explains, is making sure that you don’t lose focus on the most vital parts of your strategy: “The channels offering the most value and highest ROI haven’t changed from where they’ve historically sat, so the higher ROI will continue to sit with those end-of funnel channels like paid search and affiliates. While programmatic is making a big difference to media buys, it will usually be less efficient to go to users rather than them coming to you as per search.” Marketers should continue to ensure that the core pillars of their marketing strategy are functioning at their best and in sync with each other, in order to give the solid grounding that will be necessary to weather the potentially choppy waters of 2017.
It’s not too late to register for the Figaro Digital Travel & Leisure Conference! To read the agenda, find out more about our great speakers, and register, click here.